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Rachel Maddow: White House edited transcript of Trump-Putin presser. Here’s what happened

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
Russian
President Vladimir Putin hands U.S. President Donald Trump (L) a
World Cup football during a joint press conference after their
summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images


  • MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Tuesday charged that the
    White House “skillfully cut out” a crucial portion of a
    question from Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason during last
    week’s press conference after the Helsinki summit.
  • Mason asked Russian President Vladimir Putin whether he
    wanted President Donald Trump to win the 2016 election and
    whether he directed any Russian officials to tilt the election
    in Trump’s favor.
  • In the White House’s transcript, the first part of
    Mason’s question appears to have been omitted, while another
    version of the transcript features his full question.
  • The transcript the White House was provided was the
    same as the one provided to The Washington Post and some other
    news outlets.
  • The discrepancy between the two transcripts appears to
    stem from an overlap in the audio feed, not from an intentional
    misrepresentation on the White House’s part.

During her show Tuesday night, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow suggested
that the White House selectively edited a video and transcript of
last week’s joint press conference with US President Donald Trump
and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But subsequent reports have
blamed technical difficulties for the discrepancy that has led to
several rounds of controversy in the week since the summit.

White House edits video to remove question about whether
Putin wanted Trump to win,” said a tweet from the show’s
Twitter account.

The question at the center of Maddow’s segment came from
Reuters’ Jeff Mason.

Mason asked Putin: “Did you want President Trump to win the
election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do
that?”

The White House’s video and written transcripts appear to
have omitted the first part of Mason’s question — when he asked
whether Putin favored Trump during the election — and only
include the second.

Putin then responded, “Yes. Yes, I did. Because he talked
about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal.”

Maddow said the White House had “skillfully cut out that question
from the Reuters reporter as if it didn’t happen.”

She then aired two separate clips: one featured the full
question, and the other only included the second part of it,
during which Mason asked Putin whether he directed any Russian
officials to help Trump win the election.

Technical difficulties 

But as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump
pointed out
on Wednesday, the error likely wasn’t
intentional. He said The Post’s transcript, which he said came
from Bloomberg Government, initially had the same omission.

The discrepancy in the transcripts seems to stem from an overlap
in the audio feed during the presser.

Maddow acknowledged the possibility in a
tweet
after Business Insider reached out to MSNBC for
comment.

Right before Mason asked his question, the interpreter was in the
middle of translating Putin’s answer to a previous question,
during which he said, “Options abound, and they all can be found
in an appropriate legal framework.”

When Putin was done speaking, Mason asked his question. But at
that point, the interpreter was still translating the Russian
leader’s words.

In the version of the transcript the White House put
out, the feed focused on what the translator was saying in its
entirety. It then cut to Mason, who by that point was already
halfway through asking his question and could be heard saying,
“And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

Bump said The Post’s feed initially featured the same audio based
on the transcript that was provided to the outlet.

But in the other transcript Maddow aired, which
features Mason’s full question, the feed cuts from the
interpreter to the reporters in the room as soon as Mason begins
speaking. It appears to cut off, to some extent, what the
interpreter was saying while it focused on the reporter’s
question.

A White House official told CNN that the audio feed
used to produce both the video and transcript the White House put
out did not have Mason’s audio turned up in time, and as a
result, he could only be heard when it became clear that the
translator had finished speaking. In other feeds, like one Fox
News aired, both Mason and the translator could be heard
speaking.

But CNN noted that when the issue first became clear a week ago,
the network asked the White House to correct its transcript,
which it still had not done by Wednesday.

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